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The Book of God is wide open, and His Word is summoning mankind unto Him. No more than a mere handful, however, hath been found willing to cleave to His Cause, or to become the instruments for its promotion. These few have been endued with the Divine Elixir that can, alone, transmute into purest gold the dross of the world, and have been empowered to administer the infallible remedy for all the ills that afflict the children of men. No man can obtain everlasting life, unless he embraceth the truth of this inestimable, this wondrous, and sublime Revelation. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 183.
What is an “elixir”? According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) the original meaning of “elixir” is:
1a. Alchemy. A preparation by the use of which it was sought to change metals into gold. Sometimes identified with ‘the philosopher’s stone’.
“Elixir” has a figurative meanings as well:
2a. A supposed drug or essence with the property of indefinitely prolonging life; imagined by the alchemists to be either identical with, or closely related to, the ‘elixir’ of sense 1. More fully, elixir of life (tr. medieval Latin elixir vitæ).
2b. A sovereign remedy for disease.
3b. figurative. The quintessence or soul of a thing; its kernel or secret principle.
The Baha’i writings use the word “elixir” in the first two senses, and probably in the third as well. Thus “elixir,” from a spiritual perspective, refers to something that, instead of “indefinitely prolonging life,” qualitatively enhances life, both physically and psychologically. As such, Baha’u’llah’s teachings, described as an elixir, serve as a “sovereign remedy for disease” of our souls and our society:
The vitality of men’s belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it? Is it within human power… to effect in the constituent elements of any of the minute and indivisible particles of matter so complete a transformation as to transmute it into purest gold?
Perplexing and difficult as this may appear, the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power is one that We have been empowered to accomplish. The Force capable of such a transformation transcendeth the potency of the Elixir itself. The Word of God, alone, can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required for so great and far-reaching a change. – Ibid., p. 200.
Here, the base metal of “satanic strength” can be transmuted into the “purest gold” of “heavenly power.”
“How does this work?” you might ask.
Well, I’m no alchemist, or authority on spiritual matters, but I’d say that the dynamics of spiritual alchemy, from a Baha’i perspective at least, involves being inspired and motivated by Baha’i principles, and “translating” those potent principles into spiritual “attributes” and “perfections:”
In brief, spend your nights and days in the study of the holy Utterances and in acquiring perfections. …
O loved handmaidens of God! Consider not your present merits and capacities, rather fix your gaze on the favours and confirmations of the Blessed Beauty, because His everlasting grace will make of the insignificant plant a blessed tree, will turn the mirage into cool water and wine; will cause the forsaken atom to become the very essence of being, the puny one erudite in the school of knowledge. It enableth a thorny bush to give forth blossoms, and the dark earth to produce fragrant and rich hyacinths. It will transmute the stone into a ruby of great price, and fill the sea shells with brilliant pearls. It will assist a fledgling schoolchild to become a learned teacher and enable a frail embryo to reveal the reality of the verse: “Hallowed be the Lord, the Most Excellent of all creators.” (Quran 23:14.) Verily, my Lord is powerful over things. – Abdu’l-Baha, A Compilation on Women, p. 37.
In this lovely and inspiring passage, Abdu’l-Baha includes an oblique reference to alchemy and its vaunted power to transmute copper into gold—but in a metaphorical, rather than literal sense: “It will transmute the stone into a ruby of great price.”
In another passage, Baha’u’llah describes the “Divine Elixir” of his teachings as having the “potency” to “transmute the souls” of you and I, and the rest of humankind, by way of a “mystic transformation” that can revolutionize our behavior, such that we can overcome our less-than-ideal “previous habits and manners” into positive virtues:
It is evident that nothing short of this mystic transformation could cause such spirit and behaviour, so utterly unlike their previous habits and manners, to be made manifest in the world of being. For their agitation was turned into peace, their doubt into certitude, their timidity into courage. Such is the potency of the Divine Elixir, which, swift as the twinkling of an eye, transmuteth the souls of men! – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, pp. 156–157.
Throughout this series of articles, we have focused on transforming godly perfections into goodly actions. If there was a “magic formula” for doing so, it would be to choose a prayer for a specific purpose, and then to pay close attention to the attributes of God that are invoked in that same prayer. I owe this insight to Tom Cicchitti, of Bellingham, Washington, from whom I learned a great deal when I first became a Baha’i years ago.
Focusing on those same attributes and applying them to your life may help bring about the positive results that you seek. Here’s one example:
O my God, the God of bounty and mercy!
Thou art that King by Whose commanding word the whole creation hath been called into being; and Thou art that All-Bountiful One the doings of Whose servants have never hindered Him from showing forth His grace, nor have they frustrated the revelations of His bounty.
Suffer this servant, I beseech Thee, to attain unto that which is the cause of his salvation in every world of Thy worlds. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
I pray this prayer every day, in Persian and in English. Why? Because I was raised a Christian, I’ve always been concerned about the “salvation” of my soul. So this is a prayer for salvation, which is a dynamic process, not a static state.
In this prayer, the keys to salvation are the “showing forth” of “grace” (or “mercy”), and being a source of “bounty.” “Bounty” is mentioned twice, along with the attribute of God, “that All-Bountiful One.”
To invoke the Emerald Tablet: “As above” (godly attributes), “so below” (goodly actions).